Brown Urges Commerce Department to Support Domestic Manufacturing Before Finalizing Duty-Free Solar Rule

Brown Has Been at the Forefront of Fighting for Domestic Solar Manufacturers and Combatting Illegal Dumping by Foreign Nations, like China; Strong Trade Enforcement & the Inflation Reduction Act together will Boost U.S. Solar Manufacturing, Create Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 9, 2022 – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo last week urging her to engage with American solar manufacturers like First Solar in Toledo, prior to finalizing a rule on duty-free importation of solar cells and modules from Southeast Asia. Brown asked Secretary Raimondo to ensure that this rule cannot be used evade any future tariffs so that domestic manufacturers are supported to the fullest extent possible.

“By engaging all stakeholders – including U.S solar manufacturers – the Department has a chance to revise its regulations consistent with our nation’s need for robust enforcement of our trade laws, particularly those addressing trade circumvention,” wrote Brown. “

Brown has been fighting for domestic solar manufacturers for years.

In May, Brown led a bicameral letter to President Biden to express support for the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) investigation into whether Chinese solar cells and modules are circumventing antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) through Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. The lawmakers’ support for the investigation comes after an extended corporate political lobbying campaign against American manufacturers. 

Brown also joined colleagues to introduce the Reclaiming the Solar Supply Chain Act to expand the solar manufacturing supply chain in the U.S., create jobs, and support our global competitiveness.

In October 2011, Brown and then-chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, Fred P. Hochberg, authored a column in the Toledo Blade to highlight the work that First Solar was doing and how the workers were “on the front lines of [the economic] recovery, making high-quality, innovative products designed in the United States and built by Americans.”

In May 2012, Brown applauded a U.S. Commerce Department decision to impose tariffs on unfairly subsidized solar panels from China. Brown wrote to President Obama in December 2011 expressing his support for a petition filed by a coalition of U.S. solar manufacturers with the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission seeking relief from illegal Chinese trade practices.

You can find the full text of the letter here and below:

The Honorable Gina Raimondo

United States Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, DC  20230

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I write to voice my concerns with the proposed regulations published by the Department of Commerce (“Department”) on July 1, 2022, following President Biden’s emergency declaration in June calling for the duty-free importation of solar cells and modules from Southeast Asia, and to urge you to take the time to engage with stakeholders prior to finalizing the rule to ensure the final regulations do not limit our capacity to stand up for American workers and American industry.

The Department’s most recent proposed regulations published by the Department run counter to that premise and would limit substantial enforcement action in the case of a circumvention determination. By engaging all stakeholders – including U.S solar manufacturers – the Department has a chance to revise its regulations consistent with our nation’s need for robust enforcement of our trade laws, particularly those addressing trade circumvention.

The Department already has regulations that guide agency action when the President declares an emergency under section 318(a) of the Tariff Act.[1] Since the President’s emergency declaration is available for relief work, these regulations tailor the tariff relief to the national emergency. In this case, the tariff relief in question should be limited, circumscribed, and should only be for the purposes of providing relief to the current stalled solar projects. In particular, the existing regulations that guide agency action under 318(a) require written requests with detailed information on “producer of the merchandise, a detailed description of the merchandise, the current HTS number, the price in the United States, the quantity, the proposed date of entry, the proposed port of entry, the mode of transport, the person for whose account the merchandise will be brought into the United States, the destination, the use to be made of the merchandise at the designated destination, and any other information the person would like the Secretary to consider.” I urge you to use the existing regulations to provide transparency to the domestic production market.

If the Department does find that Chinese producers circumvented our anti-dumping and countervailing duties on solar modules through these pass-through countries, the current proposed regulations would limit any retroactive enforcement action for the time covered by this proposed rule. The Department should be focused on leveling the playing field and avoiding any detrimental impact on American workers and American companies producing solar cells and modules domestically. To that end, the proposed rule should make clear that the two-year tariff exemption cannot be used to enable the stockpiling of solar panels for use beyond the two-year period. Failure to do so would enable a tariff avoidance scheme by permitting an end run around U.S. law – harming domestic manufacturers and making a mockery of our laws. 

The President’s declaration provided substantial deference to Commerce how to best address the declared emergency. I encourage you to revisit the proposed regulations after engaging the entire stakeholder community and make changes that would support our anti-dumping laws and support domestic manufacturers prior to finalizing the rule.


[1] 19 CFR Part 358.